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A priestly Jewish family which ruled Palestine in the second and first centuries BCE (164 - 67 BCE) and wrested Judaea from the rule of the Seleucids and their Greek practices. The Jewish holiday Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabees' recapture of Jerusalem and re-consecration of the Temple in December 164 BCE A name often used for the Hasmonaeans. The term derives from the surname of Judas Maccabeus, the early leader of the revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes.


Another Jewish fortress of ancient Palestine lying southeast of Qumran across the Dead Sea at a distance of only twenty kilometers. Qumran lies almost halfway, as the crow flies, between Jerusalem and Machaerus. This fortress was built or at least strengthened by the Hasmonaean Alexander Jannaeus after he subjugated Moab to the east of the Dead Sea sometime before 90 BCE. It was designated as a bulwark to fend off attacks by the Aramaic-speaking Nabataeans who occupied Petra and areas to the south. Destroyed by Gabinius, the governor of Syria, circa 60 BCE, it was rebuilt by Herod the Great, and his son Antipas murdered John the Baptist there.

Madaba map

A sixth century CE map of Palestine, forming the mosaic floor of a Byzantine church located in the ancient town of Madaba (Medeba) modern al-'Asimah, in what is now west-central Jordan. It preserves many important details of the geography of Roman and Byzantine Palestine.


Important Jewish fortress of ancient Palestine situated on a butte west of the Dead Sea; last stronghold of the 960 Jewish Zealots, including their wives and children, who volunteered to be killed or committed suicide, rather than surrender to the besieging Roman army at the end of the final battle of the revolt that marks the end of the Second Temple Period. Located thirty-three miles South of Qumran.


Relating to the Massorah, or "tradition," that body of early medieval notes on the textual traditions about the proper reading of the Hebrew Bible and to versions of it based on these traditions. The so-called "Masoretic Text", the standard version that appears in today's Hebrew Bible, is the version transmitted by the medieval Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes. They standardized the Hebrew text's punctuation, accentuation, and consonantal divisions. In the Middle Ages, the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo (Fustat), also the former home of the now famous enizah archive collection obtained by Solomon Schechter, was the home of a Masoretic Bible manuscript vocalized by the tenth-century Masorete Aharon Ben Asher. The great Jewish scholar Maimonides declared it superior to the vocalizations of other Masoretes. So powerful was Maimonide's influence that Ben Asher's version became the standard text as it appears in today's Hebrew Bible. Ultimately Ben Asher's manuscript ended up in the possession of the Jewish community of Aleppo, Syria; today it is known as the Aleppe Codex and is kept in Jerusalem.


Hebrew for "anointed one," a kingly, prophetic, or priestly figure envisioned during and after the Babylonian exile as savior of the Jewish people who would restore their political/religious autonomy. Applied by Christians to Jesus ("Christ" is the Greek translation of "messiah") and by Jews throughout history to a handful of leaders (e.g., Simon bar Kokhba, 132135 C.E., Shabbatai Zevi, 16261676 C.E.).


The central legal collection of early rabbinic (= Tannaitic) Judaism. Based on rabbinic traditions compiled about 200 CE, it contains ordinances on such matters as marriage, Sabbath observance, sacrifices, ritual purification, civil law, etc; part of the Talmud. See also Tannaitic and Tosephta.